Role of Army in Pakistan

Army said to control all segments of Pakistani society
By Khalid Hasan: Daily Times, June 28, 2007

WASHINGTON: Under General Pervez Musharraf, the Pakistan Army has made deep inroads into every facet of life, suggests a long report published in the Washington Post on Wednesday.

The report, filed from the village of Daulat Nagar near Kharian by the newspaper’s Pakistan-based correspondent, quotes one Dr Nusrat Riaz who complains that the clinic he has run for three years has been sent an administrator “to look over his shoulder,” though he has no medical background, no experience in supervising doctors and who, in addition, is “functionally illiterate”. He is from the army. It is not clear if the officer is still serving or retired. The report notes that under Gen Musharraf, the military has “quietly exerted its influence over nearly every segment of Pakistani society. Active-duty or retired officers now occupy most key government jobs, including posts in education, agriculture and medicine that have little to do with defence. The military also dominates the corporate world; it reportedly runs a $20 billion portfolio of businesses from banks to real estate developers to bakeries. And everywhere lurks the hand of the feared military-led intelligence services.”

The present campaign for judicial independence in Pakistan is said to have “exploded into a full-fledged movement to oust the armed services from civilian life and send the generals back to their barracks. They are not expected to go easily, and the wealth and influence they have attained during the Musharraf era helps explain why.”

The Post quotes lawyer and opposition figure Zafarullah Khan as saying, “Ultimately the question is: Who gets to rule? Sixteen generals or 160 million people? Sooner or later we have to decide that once and for all.” Gen Musharraf’s rule has been different from that of his predecessors, with soldiers a rare sight on the nation’s streets, and “yet the military’s imprint is everywhere,” says the report.

Intelligence agencies, the report says, are active. Zafrullah Khan told the correspondent that he received a phone call in the small hours of the morning that said, “We’ve purchased your coffin.” Another caller said, “Get ready for Pakistan’s Tiananmen Square.” The second call is hard to believe as a question mark hangs over Pakistani intelligence operatives’ familiarity with recent Chinese history.

“With Musharraf fighting for his political survival, the military has begun pushing back against what top officers call a ‘malicious campaign’ against the state.” The report notes that three months earlier, Gen Musharraf “enjoyed widespread popularity, owing in part to his decision to replace civilian leaders who were seen as corrupt and inefficient with military leaders who presented themselves as disciplined and moral”. However, the mood shifted dramatically on March 9 with the sacking of the chief justice. That message has filtered down to the streets of Pakistan, and it seems to resonate with a diverse group of Pakistanis. The army’s close ties with the United States at a time of growing anti-Americanism here have not helped its image, the report adds.

On Tuesday, the Washington Post published a letter from one Kalyan Singhal from Columbia, Maryland, who said Pakistan stands at the centre of four markets with more than two billion people and a combined annual gross domestic product close to $20 trillion. If Pakistan makes certain strategic changes, in 40 years it could have the highest per capita income in the world outside North America, Western Europe and Japan. The Pakistan Army, which does not wish to give up its privileges, the letter writer noted, “attracts the best and the brightest”. Any plan for Pakistan’s future, he suggested, must ensure that army personnel maintain their privileges. Pakistan should make peace with India and reduce the size of its army by two-thirds and use the savings to build its infrastructure, giving the demobilised personnel the responsibility for this work in exchange for maintaining or even enhancing their privileges. “This will allow Pakistan’s president, Gen Pervez Musahrraf, to become a civilian president and create an opening for his predecessors Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif to lead parliament, with one of them as prime minister and the other as leader of the opposition.”

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